Washington Color School Dropout

I was talking shop with Tyler Green this weekend, and he told me that the Washington Post’s art critic Blake Gopnik actually did devote more than a paragraph in a review of two unrelated shows at a different museum to the National Gallery’s extraordinary exhibition of Mark Rothko’s black paintings. They’re incredible works, and the installation the East Wing’s skylit Tower Gallery is both beautiful and bold, and not just because they break with art world convention by continuously playing Morton Feldman’s related, minimalist composition, Rothko Chapel in the gallery.
But yeah, no, I still couldn’t find anything more than a cursory mention in a slight, “big picture” piece about monochrome painting in DC. For once, though, it’s not Gopnik that got under my skin.
It’s the arts editors [sic] at the Washington Post who, in 2010, not only published a sloppily argued, clichée-ridden letter about shows at Washington’s top three museums–the National Gallery or Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Phillips Collection–which the obviously hadn’t seen. They managed to write a headline that matched the letter for proudly ignorant bluster:

My kids could match these color-crazed artists
Saturday, June 12, 2010; A13
I read with much interest Blake Gopnik’s review of new exhibits at the Phillips Collection [Arts & Style, June 6].
I can’t help but compare the artists’ work with that produced by some artists very close to me. While Mark Rothko’s blacks at the National Gallery invite “deep immersion and profound explanation” and Yves Klein’s blues at the Hirshhorn are about an “astonishing gesture of reduction,” my sons’ graphite on blue-lined white backgrounds invite profound explanation about the astonishing number of orcs a person can depict being killed in one scene.

It’s almost enough to make me feel sympathy for Gopnik, who actually has to work with these philistines. Or at least it helps explain some of his Corky St. Clair-isms.